'Gender' is a broad term that is mainly used to show whether one is male or female. The family is the basic building block of a society. A family comprises of a man and a woman. Naturally, the man has always been the breadwinner, but this perception has since changed. Today, we see the situations, where the roles have been reversed. The woman can provide in cases, where the man is financially unstable. Prior to these new developments, the institution of marriage was held with high esteem. The man had his distinctive roles. There were jobs that only HE could do. Similarly, the woman also had jobs that only she could undertake .Here, we concentrate on the two issues. The first studies how people from different parts of the world view the institution of marriage. It looks at the way people view the roles of a mother in a family. It explores issues of morality in terms of behaviors within a family, and the way they differ across various parts of the world. Can attitudes converge over a period of time? Are there generational differences concerned as much as the family values are?
There are possibilities that the family values have undergone massive shifts over time. However, some of these values have been retained. They show greater continuity of the values, as they were several generations back. The issue of gender inequalities then arises. The society, and, in particular, the family, has experienced gender inequalities and disparities over time. The society views the woman as the underdog. As such, she is more submissive to her husband. The husband, on the other hand, is expected to be the head of the house. He gives directions for the family. In the domestic labor, house chores are delegated to the woman. The woman's job remains indoors; she is the housewife, while the man is expected to undertake the outdoor activities. She washes the dishes, mops the floor, nurses the children, cooks, does the laundry, and takes care of the husband. He tends to care about the garden, look after the cattle, and fend for the family, among other major roles. These gender inequalities, especially in the domestic setting, are not easy to change.
The family, as an institution, has become increasingly individualized. What this means is that there has been a substantial shift in the way the family is understood. This argument was developed from the contemporary English society (2004). From the 1960s to date, the notion of 'normal family' has become meaningless. This was the era that some social theorists called the 'the second modernity'. This perception does not necessarily mean that the heterosexual families have become redundant. Rather, this type of family has now become one of the many diverse types of families. These developments have rendered the family to be viewed in different and relative terms. For instance, the way the Americans view the family, is not the same as Africans do. The traditional family is on the verge of collapse.
The core values of a family are marriage and motherhood. Marriage is about reproducing to have children. This ensures the continuity of the family. Beliefs concerning what is right and what is wrong in relation to family or sexual behavior are sensitive. The family values have undergone the cross-national variations over time. These changes have, in turn, resulted into inter-generational change in the family values. The generational divide has greatly influenced the woman's role in the society, and specifically at the family level. These days, women are increasingly participating in the labor-intensive market. The traditional family has been overtaken by secularization. Emerging family issues like homosexuality, abortion, divorce and fornication, have eroded the traditional family base. Household and family structures, especially in the western European communities, have undergone massive changes. Rates of marriage have fallen; divorce and separations are on the increase. Cases of adultery are on the rise. There is overall drop in fertility rates. Most households share a general understanding of what duties one does in a relationship. There is a division of labor. Every party in a marriage knows their responsibilities. This is not necessarily spoken. It is considered to be common sense. Though the modern lifestyle demands that each party has equal rights in sharing the house chores and other duties, this is usually not the case. Even the animal kingdom has experienced the reversed role, where the male, for instance, is charged with the responsibility of taking care of the eggs.
Though there has been labor division in the sexual matters, there have been changes in the social expectations as well. These changes are reflected in the gender roles, which differ at times. Some time ago, mothers were charged with the responsibility of upbringing the children, while the fathers were to work and to bring food for the family. Now, things have changed. Most mothers now go to work. Household duties are now shared. Although they are shared, the man still contributes a bigger percentage towards the responsibilities. Women and machines do not mix, so men still control machines and fix automobiles. Women still have the duty of taking care of the household and looking after the children. Even if both the man and the wife work, it is still the responsibility of the mother to take care of the sick children, unless the father is available. Although not all, most women still do the laundry and cooking. Men are more into repairs, assembly of furniture, and general outdoor activities.
In her book, Bathing in the 1920s, Catherine Horwood explores the changes in sexual life since 1920s. There was general ignorance about sex before this period. Parents were not open with their children about sex. Children did not know much about sex, except in their youth, but still, the topic was approached with ignorance. Sex, they were told, was meant within marriage. They were told that sex was for those, who loved each other, not for experimental purposes. One was to stay a virgin until marriage. They always kept guard about delving into premarital sex. Of course interaction between the sexes were encouraged. They were expected to avoid scenarios that would tempt them into having sex. So they played in the fields. They came closer, but they did not do it. 'If you play with fire, you will get burnt’, they were told. The youth were advised to be patient and to respect their sexuality. Marriage was what was recommended. The youths later realized that appearances mattered so much that they started becoming conscious of their attire. One could be spoken volumes about. One had to be fashionable, so as to be attractive to the members of the opposite sex. This was the era of beauty. Ladies, especially, realized the need to manipulate their bodies and to change their appearances, so as to be more appealing. With these changes, sex was secularized.
This trend led to the emergence of the fashion industry. Clothing, cosmetics, dieting, and body workouts were the trends of this era. The sexualized body of the modern female became more of a fun, and acceptable. In her book’ Shopping in the 1900s, Erika Rappaport explores the emergence of fashion and beauty. She identifies parts of London, as entertainment and shopping centers. People, especially the ladies, shop for pleasure. In these neighborhoods, a transformation unfolds, and finally femininity has a whole new meaning to the women. This is modernity to them. This change of events encourages a woman to be more outgoing and to enjoy her public life. Shopping is now a leisure activity. You do it for fun! The urban woman is now free to enjoy her time without any restrictions. It is no longer a man's world. There is a new sense of pride for the women.
Unlike before the twentieth century, where finances were majorly handled by the man, the modern woman now accounts for and manages her own money. She has worked for it, anyway. The man gives no qualms about it either. Talk of gender equality!
Whether shopping encouraged or discouraged women's freedom remains subject to debate. A number of factors come into play, ranging from business practices to laws and changes in culture, on deciding how the market affects the women. Rappaport considers how influences, such as sales strategies, business policies, public transportation, modern feminism, and fiscal balance of authority in the domestic setting, contributed to growth of the modern woman. Rappaport is able to show the transition from the housewife to the modern woman, who has the liberty to do what she wants. In both cases, Catherine Horwood (Bathing in the 1920s), and Erika Rappaport (Shopping in the 1900s) are able to trace the growth of the modern woman through fashion and shopping.